“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited the world.”*
We compete in many arenas to win, but what is it we’re competing for?
These words from Mary Oliver suggest for me the kind of life many would hope to win.
I was born in 1959. The world has changed in many ways since then. I certainly know that I don’t want to live in a 1959 world today.
The world of humans has developed and improved in so many ways since then, thanks to the things many people have competed around and won in many areas of life; work: education, gender, sexuality, medicine, technology, politics.
The world has also become worse in many places, or at least remained the same: poverty, terrorism, conflict, global warming, personal anxiety.
There are certainly many places in which we need to keep pushing forward.
One way to win is to become people acting upon these things rather than being acted upon. Echoing Erich Fromm’s belief** that no-one is absolutely free but more or less free, Alex McManus writes:
‘Freedom is the ability to choose within our bounds.’^
To know our bounds holds is also to know the possibility of expanding our bounds. Maria Popova writes about a stoic’s key to peace of mind when she quotes Seneca:
“There are more things […] likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we often suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”^^
Popova includes an illustration from author Catherine Lepange showing how normal people and anxious people see.
It is indeed critical to be people who see beyond ourselves but I want to add to this illustration to look like this:
If we are to know how we are able to interact with what we see beyond ourselves, we also need to know ourselves – our bounds.
-I don’t want to be stuck in in 1959 and I don’t want to remain in 2017 either. To understand that we are people capable of changing the world will require us to face failure – often the reason for much our fear and anxiety. To know this comes with the territory and to better know ourselves is to give ourselves a better chance of winning:
‘where people do failure avoidance, they will never achieve the kind of courage and risk taking that lead to bold innovation’.*^
We hold on to victory.
(*Mary Oliver, quoted in Philip Newell’s The Rebirthing of God.)
(**See Erich Fromm’s The Art of Listening.)
(^From Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire: ebook version.)
(^^Seneca, quoted in Maria Popova’s BrainPickings: A Stoic’s Key to Peace of Mind.)
(*^From John Ortberg’s All the Places to Go.)